Like most new moms of twins, I don’t remember much of that first month home with my newborn boys. All that changed, however, when I got my twins on a regular schedule. For me, I needed them to nap twice a day at the same time so I could catch my breath, and I couldn’t relax or “turn off” for the night until both my twins were snoozing soundly in their cribs by 7:30 p.m. Getting them on a schedule was a huge coping mechanism during that first chaotic year.
But what does “putting babies on a schedule” actually mean?
Every mom has her own definition of how strict or lax she is with her schedule. But I can tell you what it isn’t. Scheduling doesn’t mean standing over your twins with a stopwatch and yelling, “go,” timing them as they sip away on their bottles, or putting them in their cribs at a prescribed time each evening and just shutting the door. But rather scheduling is just consistently doing the same thing (eat, sleep, play) at the same time each day until your babies magically fall in line. Sometimes it happens quickly; other times it takes a month or two.
But how do you accomplish it?
Tip #1: Use the Same Schedule as the Hospital Did.
Most moms who have given birth to twins stay an average of three days in the hospital. During that time, the nursing staff takes on a big chunk of the “mothering” by bathing, dressing, and sometimes even bottle feeding your babies at the same time each day. Before you leave the hospital, ask one of your nurses to write down your twins’ schedule and then when you take your babies home, just continue with that schedule.
Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Wake One Up to Feed Both Together.
Most newborn twins wake approximately every 2 hours to be fed (preemies will need to be fed a little sooner; full-term twins begin to fuss closer to every three hours). But if you allow each baby to sleep and wake up at will, very soon you’ll have one awake and one asleep and never the twain shall meet! And what does that mean for you? No time for a shower. No time to sit down and eat a meal. No time to sleep.
A better approach is to nurse or bottle feed both babies at the same time. When one twin wakes in the middle of the night ready to nurse, gently gather his sleeping cotwin and tandem nurse. (Do not, however, follow the reverse where you make one twin wait to be fed until the other is ready.) Obviously when you have a bit more time (say, when a family member comes over to help), by all means feed and cuddle each child separately.
Tip #3: Getting Your Twins on the Same Schedule Takes Time and a Bit of Tweaking
Getting into a regular routine will take a bit of time as you work with your twins’ innate wake-sleep cycles. (Think of it like dieting—you won’t fit in your “skinny jeans” after only one day of carrot sticks.) For instance, with my own boys, one was a great napper but then would turn into a night owl once bedtime came around. His cotwin was just the opposite. He took way more time to settle down for his nap but once bedtime hit, he clicked off like a light.
So how did I deal with these opposite personalities? I still put them both down to nap at the same time but I would have to come in to the nursery to soothe and settle the fussy napper several times (the great napper was never disturbed by this). At bedtime, the opposite would happen and on more than one occasion, I would put the night owl in his motorized bouncy seat and let him “chill” before carefully moving him to his crib once he began to drift off. Over time, however, both boys eventually came around and began sleeping at the same time. Whew! (If you have opposite sleepers and one is disrupting the other, try putting them in separate rooms just until their routines sync up.)
Bottom line? Be patient. Be inventive. Be sensitive.
Tip #4: Identical twins usually fall in line together sooner than fraternal twins.
It’s true—identical twins have similar dispositions making scheduling a bit easier on mom.
Tip #5: Keep bedtime routines calm.
Start winding down for the day right after dinner and follow a soothing routine in preparation for bed. Turn off the TV. Speak in low voices. Try a warm bath, maybe a baby massage followed by snuggle time and then bed. Keep the nursery dark, quiet, and a bit cool. Over time, your babies will begin to equate their dark, quiet environment as a cue that it’s time to sleep.
Tip #6: Schedules are just guidelines, not written in stone.
Don’t become a slave to your twins’ schedule. In other words, don’t turn down an invitation for a family picnic just because it’s during the twins’ nap time (yes, I’m guilty and have lived to regret it!) or sequester yourself in a hotel room during a Hawaiian vacation just so your twins can have their full two-hour nap. It’s OK to venture away from the routine every now and then to have a little fun!
So, how have you coaxed your twins into having the same routine?